Here’s what I was planning on running on our last game:
While escorting the caravan, our heroes met with Lady Adelinde, a widowed noblewoman in search of valiant heroes to help her find the body of her deceased husband.
Lady Adelinde’s husband has been missing and she has spent most of her fortune trying to find his whereabouts. In despair, she sought the famed Oracle of Spellgard to answer her questions.
The Oracle informed her of her husband’s demise and gave clues on where to find his body.
It all amounts to words
Trolls and swords and trees abound
An oak he found and holes in ground
My players nearly didn’t take to the plot line – the leading personality of the group doesn’t really care much about being noble or heroic and the plight of the noblewoman was not appealing to him.
Her husband’s dead. Suits him. Move on.
I cast « Dungeon Master’s Puppy Eyes » and got some mercy from my players, who decided to investigate.
Engage, Number One!
This is our second time playing Friday night and I already detected non-too-subtle signs of week-end weariness in my players.
I originally planned on having them try to understand the Oracle’s words… but I let Lady Adelinde tell them of her progress in understanding the riddle.
Her husband died in the forest of TrollBark. His journal must have fallen in there where oaks are found.
Our resident ranger, aware of this forest, new that it was infested with Trolls – creatures that our players would not want to meet, for they spelled sure doom! He was also aware that there is only a small patch of oaks (what do I know about oaks?) in that forest – in a place that no longer sustains troll population.
My players are level 1 and meeting a party of trolls would most likely spell doom.
However, I wanted to danger to be there… so I played this as a loose, informal, « skill challenge ».
The ranger was to guide them through the forest, everyone watching for any signs of troll.
This is the first time I made a cooperative check… and it was rather interesting. It didn’t have enough role play elements into it to my tastes – in retrospect, I should have had the players describe what they were doing to help the ranger.
Nevertheless, they navigated through the forest, crossing signs of nearby trolls, but no trolls to speak of.
The arrived at the patch of oaks and rapidly noticed a book near one of the trees.
Arkanys-The-Bold ran to the journal and the ground opened under his feet. The ground opened onto tunnels, seemingly dug by giant insects. He instantly teleported to safety (Shadow Jaunt Encounter Power) back with the party.
They rapidly decided to throw a rope down and explore the tunnels… where they met what was meant to be the first encounter of the night.
Now, before I move on – let me remind you that these guys kicked my balls in the last two sessions by doing five fights in a row – the last one being one that I felt should have been difficult even fully rested.
So I threw at them a basic level 4 encounter, straight from the PHB:
- 2 Corruption Corpse (level 4 artillery)
- 4 Kruthik Adults (level 4 Brute)
When I last met with ChattyDM, he told me that the Kobold scenario I had been running had rather easy fights… And boy, was the money right under him!
I didn’t have time to prepare properly and wasn’t too familiar with the monsters. Setting up the fight and playing through the first round, I realized that they players actually stood little chance of survival.
The Kruthik adults have a recharging ranged attack called « Toxic Spikes », which allows it to make two attacks which causes ongoing 5 poison damage and slows the target.
The zombies have an at-will ranged attack that targets reflex and causes the target to be weakened.
After the first round, everyone was either slowed and poisoned or weakened. Fleeing from a collapsed tunnel didn’t feel like a viable option.
I didn’t want to cheat… but I surely don’t want to over challenge the players without at least giving them a flee scenario. And I didn’t want to pull my punches as I perhaps did in previous fights.
I considered lowering the HP on the critters, but decided against it. Their poisoning and weakening attacks were causing more trouble than I had planned for and they were to be the target of my adjustment.
I removed the recharge option from the toxic spikes. Instead, they would recharge when the Kruthik got bloodied.
I also change the zombie’s « weakened » effect to give it a 50% chances of failing on hit.
It still was a rather hard and perilous fight!
Iris, the cleric (aka Healing Serge) had his work cut out for him! And the paladin had a lot of Kruthiks to tank.
All powers, prayers and tactics were used and it wasn’t going well – nothing seemed to put down these monsters!
Some of my players must have caught my distress – a few of them told me: « Hey, don’t worry – if my PC dies, it dies. I can make another one in a few minutes with the character generator… »
This somehow allowed me to relax and let the combat play out.
I don’t remember the details, as it was two weeks ago, but in the end, even though Arkanys nearly died, the players prevailed.
The fight took the better part of three hours to run.
There were a few glitches during the play session… most of them, I believe, due to the players (and the DM!) being tired.
I have still to learn to grab the attention of the players and direct the action a bit more so there is less waste of time, but all in all, I think most of the players had a good time.
I am, however, wondering if the Friday night game idea will work with this group. Its only been two games on a Friday night – too small a sample to judge… but we might have to revert to less frequent games that run on the weekends instead.
- The Oracle of Delphi, ©2004 Howard David Johnson
- Troll, © FX Déco Troll Makeup
- Kruthik Adult, © Wizards of the Coast